|Desires and Dreams and Expectations. Oh my!|
1 Kings 17:10-16
As we continue to draw near the end of the Liturgical Year, Mother Church wisely encourages us to make sure we’re detached from the things of the world. It is not hard to find ourselves in a place where we’ve begun to cling to our own will, desires, or expectations. The problem with clinging to the things of this life is that they ultimately fail to satisfy our deepest longings and leave us unable to receive the Will of God, which brings true happiness, on account of us having out hands full of our ‘stuff’. Anyone who has made an act of faith before by giving up something for God knows that the truth of the matter is that God won’t leave us hanging. He always shows up and it’s always better than we could have anticipated. That doesn’t mean we don’t have crosses. Surely we do; we must. But the Will of God is such that we can handle the crosses more gracefully.
To help our reflection this weekend Mother Church brings to mind two women, both poor widows. The first is the widow of Zarephath in her encounter with prophet Elijah. He comes into the area and asks the women for a drink of water and a bit of food. In response we hear the unhappy story of how she was in that very moment going to make a little bit of food for her son and after partaking they would die on account of starvation. You can imagine the great weight on the woman’s heart as she knows that not only is her death imminent, but also that of her son. To this Elijah responds with a word of encouragement and that she not be afraid, that they would not starve. Then he oddly renews his request for some food, knowing she has almost nothing for herself and her son. In agreeing to his request she essentially shows that she was willing to die for Elijah, in that she gave the last of her sustenance in faith that God would provide. In letting go of her will, her expectations, and likely her desire for the food herself, she was able to receive a new plan that overflowed in its abundance.
To this image we are also given the example of the woman in the Gospel. She, too, is faced with a decision to try to save something for herself or to give up everything in an act of faith. She is applauded by Jesus because her seemingly small gift was her whole livelihood. Following the model of the ancient story and the pattern of God’s love and generosity that is never outdone, I’d love to know the rest of the story. How is it that God responded? Did Jesus do something after this scene that changed everything for her? A miracle at Cana type of miracle? Or something deeper? We’ll find out in Heaven. But before then, we have to follow their example.
To each and all of us God gives the reminder that we cannot continue to cling to the things of this life and be ready for the next one. The Letter to the Hebrews talks about the eagerness of Christians for the Lord’s return, but how many of us would rejoice if Jesus showed up right in front of the altar and said “I’m here, who wants to leave this world and go to heaven right now?” I think some of us might balk and be like those elsewhere who have excuses that they’d love to but they have to take care of just one thing real quick before then. What is it that we are clinging to today? Where is it that the Lord inviting us to a sacrificial gift? An act of faith that seems absurd and yet it is the exact thing the Lord desires? The Lord wills it – can we receive it?
[At this point the homily leads into the reading of Bishop Muench’s address regarding the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. For more information on that –whether to learn about what it does or to make donation online - you can visit baabr.org]